For many women suffering from PCOS, endometriosis, hormonal issues and autoimmune issues, sugar is one of the most harmful substances you can be ingesting. From the obvious sugary foods to foods that turn into sugar (like refined carbohydrates), these can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes. Over time leading to irregular menstrual cycles, disrupted ovulation patterns, insulin resistance and adrenal fatigue. I’m not here to tell you that you have to kiss your cookies or bread goodbye forever, but you need to understand that all forms of sugar can be having a significant impact on your ability to get pregnant.
As a society, we’ve got a problem with sugar. Our on again, off again relationship with the sweet stuff is damaging our fertility in more ways than one. 25 to 30 grams of sugar a day is the suggested amount, depending on what association or organisation you ask. The World Health Organisation backs this up and recommends that adults get less than 10 percent of their daily calories from not only added sugar, but also natural sugars in honey, syrup, or fruit juice. Ideally, that works to 25 grams for a 2,000 calorie diet. That's six to seven teaspoons of sugar a day- not a lot when you start to add it up. Many of us are unaware of the dangers of sugar on our fertility and have little or no true facts. This post isn't here to tell you to stop eating all things sugar. It's here to get you thinking about sugar in more ways than one and to recognise how much sugar you're actually eating. So let's look into some nuggets of knowledge and interesting facts about all things sugar - remember knowledge is power!
1. There’s sugar hiding in plain sight. You think you’re being good by staying away from the Coke and the office doughnuts, but added sugar is present in 74 percent of packaged foods in supermarkets, according to a report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And don’t be fooled by all the “healthy” paleo bars and snacks. One little bar can hold up to 18 grams of sugar in it - that’s over 1/2 your daily intake.
2. Every time you eat foods high in sugar, your pancreas must secrete insulin to convert the sugar in your blood into energy. Repeated frequently, you may develop insulin resistance, leading to high levels of insulin, which can inhibit ovulation, autoimmune issues and can cause metabolic disorders, including PCOS.
3. All carbs are not created equal and the carbs you find in bread, pasta and breakfast cereals will make your blood sugar levels skyrocket (this is called a high glycemic effect) and then you'll come down with a crash. Repeated blood sugar level spikes from eating these types of foods, put stress on your internal organs. This effect causes a fight or flight reaction with your adrenal glands, and they begin to produce more cortisol and adrenaline to try and replenish sugar levels. Repeated consumption of these poor carbs signals this effect over and over, weakening the adrenal glands and slowing hormone production, also increasing your chances of insulin resistance leading to higher risks of developing chronic issues that affect your fertility. So you may think you're not eating sugar when you eat these types of carbs, but your body does, and that's all that matters. On top of that, sugar is put into a lot packaged bread, including "whole grain" kinds and cereals. A beloved blow of Weetabix comes in at 4.4g of sugar per 100g, and Special K has 12g of sugar per 100g; and you haven't even added fruit, honey, low-fat yoghurt or skimmed milk yet - we'll talk about those later.
4. Sugar can have negative affects your immune system. Eating just a tablespoon can lower your immunity for up to four hours, so imagine what eating processed carbs for every meal or just one sugary snack daily is doing to your body - something to really think about if you have autoimmune issues.
5. Many low-fat foods, including milk, yoghurts, snacks, cereals and ready meals contain more sugar than their “full fat” equivalents - in some cases more than five times as much! Most of these products are promoted as a healthy-eating option and marketed to women wanting to eat a low-fat diet. But as many as you know, for some reason you just can't lose weight - the simple reason for this is because you're consuming way more sugar than you should be. And this can lead to any of the fertility issues we talked about before - PCOS, endometriosis, hormonal issues and autoimmune issues. an excellent way to remember that low-fat is not always the best: They're taking out all the yummy fat, so to make it taste good they have to replace it. Most likely, it's going to be replaced with sugar!! Don’t be scared of fat -
6. Obivouisly there’s sugar in alcoholic drinks and I’m sure you can google what drinks have the lowest amount of sugar in them. But alcohol it self has a confusing effect on blood sugar levels, as it prevents the liver from producing glucose. One consequence of this is that hypoglycemia can occur after a night of drinking - in sort your blood sugar levels drop, meaning your adrenals will have to go into over drive to make up for this (we talked all about the adrenals in number nugget of knowledge.) Now, a glass or two every once in awhile I’m sure is not going to have big over all impact on your blood sugar levels. But if red wine is your best friend (she’s one of mine) then a friendship break might be needed for a little while.
7. While fruits are full of goodness including Copper, Biotin, Potassium, Fiber, Vitamin B6 & C, Manganese, many of us don’t realise how much sugar is actually in our fruit and remember sugar is sugar. Obviously, the primary sugar which you’ll find in fruit is fructose, “the sugar that’s most damaging to our health.” (The Better Baby Book by L. Asprey, MD & D. Asprey). High fructose levels go directly to the liver, where the organ repackages it as blood fats called triglycerides. These high fructose levels can also contribute to insulin resistance a big issue for a lot of women dealing with fertility issues. Now a piece or two a day will do you good, just remember to add it to your total sugar count. (Great website to check out the sugar levels in all different types of fruits) I used to eat loads of fruit, thinking I was being good. But in hindsight, I was pushing my sugar count WAY UP! Don't forget your beloved smoothies. Look at the sugar line next time you pick up a bottle of Innocent, Naked or
Savse - I think you'll be amazed at how much sugar is in one little drink!!
8. It's not all about you either. Your male partner has a significant role to play in creating
life - like 50%!! And surprise, surprise the effect of sugar on male fertility can be just as damaging. Men who eat too much sugar can suffer from insulin resistance, which can have an impact on their hormone disruption due to the overstimulation of the adrenal glands. Sugar can also have a big effect on their immunity, leaving them open to illnesses which may have an impact on sperm count.
9. There are at least 61 different names the food producers have come up with to try and trick us on the nutrient labels. Corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup, Dextrose or crystal dextrose, Fructose, Maltose, Lactose, Sucrose, Glucose, Evaporated cane juice or fruit juice, Caramel, Carob syrup, Brown sugar, Raw sugar, Dextrin and maltodextrin, Rice Syrup, Molasses, Evaporated corn sweetener, Confectioner’s powdered sugar, Agave nectar, Other fruit nectars (for example, pear nectar), Cane crystal, Cane sugar, Corn Sweetener, Crystalline Fructose, Dextrose, Fruit juice concentrates, Honey, Invert sugar, Lactose, Maltose, Malt syrup, Molasses, Raw sugar, Sucrose and Syrup. Using a name for sugar that the consumer might not be aware of, makes it easier to skim over a long ingredient name in a hurry during a rushed shop and inadvertently take in more sugar than you want to.
10.Natural Sweeteners such as Coconut Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup, Stevia and Blackstrap Molasses to name a few STILL have sugar in them! Don't be fooled by the word natural - this doesn't mean because it's natural you can have as much as you'd like. Your body still has to process that sugar and the same effect happen within your body when you eat it. One teaspoon of honey has 5 grams of sugar, and my guess is you use a little more than one teaspoon on top of your oats or in your daily smoothie!?! And although all these Natural Sweeteners do have many things good for you and may be called superfoods - just be conscious that the bad effects of the sugar might out the way the other benefits you can get from these Natural Sweeteners.
11. Don't be fooled by artificial sweeteners including Aspartame and Sucralose aka Splenda. They hold a host of their own potential health problems and have been shown to increases blood glucose levels similar to sugar. Click the links for more info.
12. According to brain scans, sugar is as addictive as cocaine (Forbes) and can cause major cravings, leaving you wanting more and more and more! We’ve all been there, and it’s a hard cycle to get off of. Start slowly, pick one or two "surgery" items listed above and cut them out of your life and work slowly on cutting them all out. Recognise what kind of person you are - can you have the occasional surgery snack/meal or do you just need to go cold turkey and not give in for 30 days plus!?! This is a big factor in being successful.
And there they are - I hope you have learnt something new or have been reminded of a little nugget of knowledge you've forgotten. I know how it feels to watch your friends get pregnant on a “normal” diet and you’ll see others around you be able to get pregnant easily on frankly a sh*t diet, including alcohol and drugs. It’s unfair, but it’s life. The sooner you accept that’s not going to be you the less struggle and heartache you’ll have. We all have different genetics, and yours is what
has lead you here. Don't compare yourself to others - it's a waste of time.
Be mindful of what you're eating. Find a diet that works for you - start with (as much as you can) organic, real food. By doing this, you’re giving your body the nutrient dense natural building blocks you need to rebuild and support the necessary functions of your reproductive system. Through a clean diet, you can take control of your fertility and promote the natural production and balance of your hormones, a healthy menstrual cycle, egg development (which starts three months before ovulation), embryo development, implantation, and gestation.
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